Municipal waste statistics for Ireland

EPA waste data release 25 Nov. 2021. Latest reference year 2019 (Data subject to Eurostat validation)

Municipal waste is made up of household waste and commercial waste that is similar to household waste. The EPA reports data on how much municipal waste is generated and how it is treated.

In 2019, Ireland generated 3.1 million tonnes of municipal waste and recycled 37 per cent of it.  

MSW arriving and being picked for initial sorting

What is municipal waste? 

In our everyday lives we produce a general mix of waste in our homes, offices, schools and similar premises. This type of waste is called municipal waste. It is usually collected at kerbside or we can bring it to collection centres.  The amount of municipal waste generated in our country is an important measure of how wasteful our everyday lives are.

Municipal Waste includes these following waste types:

  • Residual (i.e. black bin) waste e.g. waste that cannot be recycled
  • Recyclable (i.e. green bin) waste e.g. glass, plastic, paper & board, metals
  • Organic (i.e. brown bin) waste e.g. food and garden waste
  • Bulky waste e.g. waste that cannot fit in a wheelie bin such as broken furniture, carpets, toys etc. 
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

 

Key findings for 2019

  • Ireland generated 3.1 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2019, up 6 per cent from 2.9 million tonnes in 2018 (Table 1). Of this, 52 per cent came from households and 48 per cent came from commercial sources (Table 2). The largest increase was seen in the generation of bulky waste, which increased by almost 134,000 tonnes (Table 3).
  • Some 1.2 million tonnes of Ireland’s municipal waste was recycled in 2019, resulting in a recycling rate of 37 per cent, down from 38 per cent in 2018. This decrease resulted from a method change advised by the European Commission1. However, there has been a downward trend in Ireland’s recycling performance to the 38 per cent recorded for 2018 from 40 per cent in 2017 and 41 per cent in 2016. This trend indicates that Ireland faces significant challenges to meet the new EU recycling targets set for 2025 to 2035 (Figure 2).
  • Of the municipal waste recycled in 2019, 857,793 tonnes went for material recycling (up 1 per cent on 2018) and 294,761 tonnes was composted/anaerobically digested (up 20 per cent on 2018).
  • A total of 1.4 million tonnes or 46 per cent of Ireland’s municipal waste went for incineration with energy recovery in 2019. The upward trend in the share of municipal waste incinerated since 2011 is evident in Figure 3, reflecting a shift away from disposal of residual waste to landfill and an increased incineration capacity nationally.
  • Ireland’s landfill rate for municipal waste was 15 per cent in 2019. The slight increase from 14 per cent in 2018 is attributable to a method change advised by the European Commission1. Before 2019, biostabilised fines used for landfill cover were calssified as a waste recovery process (backfill). From 2019 on, this practice is classified as disposal. The overall percentage of recovery of biostabilised fines at landfill and disposal of municipal waste at landfill amounted to 18 per cent in 2018. Thus, there was an overall decrease of three per cent of municipal waste landfilled between 2018 and 2019. This is in line with the steep decline in Ireland’s landfill rate for municipal waste over time from 84 per cent in 2001. Ireland and other Member States must reduce the share of municipal waste landfilled to 10 per cent or less by 2035, which takes account of waste landfilled at each step along the waste treatment process in Ireland and abroad.
  • Ireland’s reliance on exporting municipal waste abroad for final treatment increased in 2019. Some 40 per cent of all municipal waste (1.2 million tonnes) was exported for final treatment in 2019, up from 35 per cent in 2018. Of the waste exported, most went for recycling (56 per cent) or energy recovery (36 per cent) while 7 per cent went for composting.

1 As prescribed by Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/1004

  • Table 1. Municipal waste generated, managed and treated

    Open in Excel: Table 1. Municipal 2019 (XLS 19KB)

    Open in CSV : Table 1 Municipal 2019 (CSV 1KB)
  • Table 2 Municipal waste generated by origin

    Open in Excel: Table 2. Municipal 2019 (XLS 9KB)

  • Table 3. Municipal waste generated by type of waste

    Open in Excel: Table 3. Municipal 2019 (XLS 9KB)

  • Table 4. Export of municipal waste

    Open in Excel: Table 4. Municipal 2019 (XLS 17KB)

Generation and recycling of municipal in Ireland and future EU recycling targets for 2020 to 2035.
Trend in the generation and treatment of municipal waste in Ireland, 2001 to 2019.

Future focus

Ireland’s recycling rate for municipal waste has not improved significantly between 2012 and 2019 and is below future EU municipal waste recycling targets. To improve municipal waste recycling percentages and reach future EU targets, we need to

  • Prevent waste: buy less, instead swap, share and repair.
  • Recycle more.

This will also reduce our emissions and use of raw materials.

European reporting

The EPA submits municipal waste data for Ireland to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, as part of the annual OECD/Eurostat Joint Questionnaire. The data are submitted in Q3-4 of the reference year +2 (i.e. 2019 data were collected and processed in 2020 and will be submitted to Eurostat in Q4 2021). Following validation by Eurostat, official statistics for Ireland and all Member States are published on the Eurostat website as part of the ‘Municipal waste by waste management operations’ dataset [env_wasmun]: https://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=env_wasmun&lang=en  Data on municipal waste recycling rates for Member States are published at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/databrowser/view/cei_wm011/default/table?lang=en  

About Our Waste Statistics

More information about how the EPA compiles and reports Official European Waste Statistics is available here.